They came alone. They came in pairs. They came in small groups. And they came by the carload. College students. Local celebrities. Artists. Professional athletes. Businessmen, a few of them shady. Suited up and dressed down.
All told, the choicest selection of black men in the city strutted by me one by one. But for one night it really didn't matter what these guys did for a living, because they were bonded by a common goal--to see some skin.
Touted by the sponsoring Mpact Promotions as the "First Annual, First-Ever Citywide Bachelor Party," the event was a fund-raiser for Unity Shelter, a haven for homeless young men ages 16 to 21. The idea was to bring professional black men together in order to save their younger brothers, and the organizers figured that a men-only party would cause a stir and make a bundle. The site was a Harvey nightclub called Club Ultimate, and the main event was a strip show.
Despite the name, proof of bachelorhood wasn't required. I noticed one guy with a tan line around the fourth finger on his left hand. Wedding band gone, he was ready to kick it. I felt as though I had slipped into the boys' locker room, where towel snapping and seedy tales of conquest and fantasy were ritual. The men laughed among themselves and, aware of my presence, talked low about the show they hoped to see.
"I want to see plen-tee of ass!" one guy said to his neighbor. He took a long swig of beer and slapped his partner on the back. "Plen-tee of ass!" he repeated.
I decided to push to the back of my mind for the evening my strong belief that performers with names like "Climax," "Hot Thang," and "Wet Dream" were setting women back 20 years. I tried to have an open mind and watch these brothers enjoy themselves. And it looked like they planned to--many clenched dollar bills tightly and sat front and center.
Dasha Jones, president of Mpact and mistress of ceremonies, sashayed around the club like a madam in a brothel, her eyes saying you can look, but don't you dare touch. Men looked at her as she flitted through the tables, restraining themselves from touching the small of her bronzed, muscular exposed back. She just smiled. "You enjoying yourself, sweetheart?" she asked one guy who appeared to be hypnotized by her deep decolletage.
"Oh, oh, yeah," he finally said, reluctantly tearing his eyes away from the view. "Everything's cool."
In addition to Dasha, there was a bevy of Lycra-laden ladies waiting tables. When one of them swished by a table, all heads turned.
"Check out the ass on that one!" a guy in a suit exclaimed.
"Man, I wouldn't mind strapping that up and taking it home!" said another.
And the strip show hadn't even begun yet.
I think only a woman could pull off a party like this. If this event had been male-produced, it would have been wham, bam, T and A all over the stage, thank you, everybody have a good night. But this bachelor party offered the audience more than just skin and sin: as foreplay it provided singers, a dance troupe, a rap group, and more.
"Man, she could talk to me all night long," said one guy about the poet spurting lines by Nikki Giovanni and showing off every curve in a tight black leather skirt.
"Damn, baby, why you got to be married?" another yelled at the comedian in the slinky, high-cut skirt and sculpted top.
As an R & B singer blazed across the stage in a lethal red dress, all one guy could say was, "I want that for the road."
Between acts was a lingerie show, a quintet of saucy sisters making their way through the haze of leering men and posing. And flashing. And teasing. My idea of sexy is not a piece of dental floss running through my crack. But these guys seemed to love it.
"I'm tired of being a bachelor," said one, wiping the sweat from his brow.
"I love black women, yes!" exclaimed another, almost toppling over the railing that separated the wolves from the sheep.
They crammed in every corner, perched on every chair, and flooded the aisles to get a glimpse of some action. Usually when guys bond, the talk eventually turns to work, sports, or cars. But not with these brothers. Instead of "Man, did you hear that new Ice Cube cut?" it was "I just want to bite those ankles." Not "How much did you lose on that Bulls/Knicks game?" but "I bet she could blow the roof off a house." And in place of "I'm up for a promotion in the legal department" it was "If I could only be the soap and towel she uses in the morning."
And the strip show hadn't even begun yet.
When it finally did start, I realized I hadn't really been prepared. Sure, I was ready for the naked bodies and the erotic dancing. But I didn't expect the strippers to bring equipment.
By equipment I mean all sorts of freaky gadgets--from the edible to the painful looking. Whipped cream proved to be a popular accessory. The guys were standing in line after one stripper sprayed whipped cream between her thighs and "forced" a guy to lick it all up.
I thought I'd seen it all, heard it all, and tried to do it all, but I found myself looking sideways in amazement as Coco, a notorious local dancer, nabbed a victim in a headlock between her thighs without missing a beat of the pulsating, heated disco music.
"Is that humanly possible?" I asked the man next to me, who also had his head tilted sideways.
"I didn't think so until now," he replied.
One lucky guy was stripped down and given a sexy bubble bath. Another guy got a taste of a human fruit basket as a stripper landed in his lap dressed only in strategically placed strawberries, bananas, and grapes. And a table of onlookers got their own show as another stripper leapt up onto their table to dance.
I walked around again to watch the reactions of the men in the club. So strong, so macho, so chicken! Some ran when the strippers came after them to drag them onstage. Some stayed and went bravely before their peers to tangle with the wild women. Some looked as delighted as a kid in an amusement park.
Many of the guys who had been making all of the macho wisecracks were quiet now. Well, not exactly quiet. They backed up a little and appeared to hold their breath, and hoped they wouldn't get pulled into the fray. Sometimes a stripper went out of her way to grab one of them--as if to prove that he couldn't handle her. Just watching this made me smile. It gave my ego an incredible boost, knowing that men can be so easily weakened. The power, oh, the sheer power of woman.
And the strip show hadn't even ended yet.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Randy Tunnell.